Ghouta Aid Convoy Postponed Amid Chemical Attack Fears
An aid convoy planned to bring assistance to besieged civilians in eastern Ghouta has been postponed, as monitors said a suspected chemical attack had hit the Syrian rebel enclave amid heavy fighting.
“The convoy for today is postponed as the situation is evolving on the ground, which doesn’t allow us to carry out the operation in such conditions,” Ingy Sedky, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said.
The joint convoy between the ICRC, UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent was expected to deliver aid to the main town of Douma on Thursday.
The trucks were instead parked on the edges of eastern Ghouta, at the government-controlled Wafideen checkpoint, Agence France-Presse reported.
Syrian government forces on Wednesday in effect divided the besieged enclave in two, further squeezing rebels and the tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside.
The government, determined to wrest the suburbs from the control of rebels after seven years of war, has resorted to extreme levels of shelling and bombardment to clear the way for its troops to advance on the ground.
At least 87 civilians were killed on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Dozens of people were also treated for breathing difficulties after airstrikes hit eastern Ghouta late on Wednesday, the monitor said, with medics reporting symptoms consistent with a toxic attack.
The observatory said at least 60 people in the rebel enclave were left struggling to breathe after airstrikes and barrel bombs hit the towns of Saqba and Hammuriyeh.
Doctors at one medical facility said they treated at least 29 patients with signs of exposure to chlorine, according to the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams). It did not report any deaths but said it was likely that more victims were being treated at other clinics.
“Due to chlorine attack in EastGhouta, patients are struggling w/symptoms such as severe dyspnea, sweating, congestion of mucus membranes, severe runny nose, wheezing & conjunctival erythema,” Sams wrote on social media.
“The emotional trauma from these attacks can not be measured.”
Regime forces have been repeatedly accused of using chlorine on eastern Ghouta in recent weeks, which the government and its ally Russia have denied.
UN investigators say government forces used chlorine as a weapon at least three times between 2014 and 2015, as well as sarin gas in 2016.
The postponement of the aid convoy marks the second time this week that desperately needed aid operations to eastern Ghouta have been disrupted by military developments.
On Monday, 46 trucks of assistance entered the area in the first aid provision since a new offensive against the enclave began on 18 February – but they had to cut their deliveries short and leave due to heavy bombardment.
Nearly half of the food aid could not be delivered while the UN said Syrian authorities removed some medical and health supplies from the trucks.
Eastern Ghouta has been besieged since 2013, making food, medicine, and other daily goods difficult to access. Aid deliveries into the area require permissions from all warring sides.
Source: The Gardian
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